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Thanksgiving Leftover Strategy

Is the thought of endless turkey sandwiches making you lose your appetite for leftover Thanksgiving turkey? Beat the leftover turkey blues and think beyond the sandwich with casseroles, turnovers and salads.

Thanksgiving leftovers can become a blessing or a curse. Granted, the venerable turkey sandwich is a treat, but after a day or two, they're boring. While turkey sandwiches might be the perennial favorite, there are dozens of ways to use up leftover turkey!

Leftovers, or what some cooks refer to as "planned over" meals, begin with a plan. Pick recipes that are easy to make while creating a new dish that isn't immediately recognized as including leftovers. Chili, enchiladas and pastas are excellent examples ways to use leftover cooked turkey. 

Think past the turkey. Thanksgiving's traditional sides can find new life in countless recipes. For example, I use leftover sweet potatoes to make a cream of sweet potato soup and those mashed potatoes become potato pancakes.  Cranberry sauce thinned with a touch of bourbon or orange juice makes a great sauce topping for ice cream or cheesecake.

To deal with the leftover dressing dilemma, here’s a quick fix: Turkey Croquettes. Mix two parts of leftover dressing with one part finely chopped turkey. Moisten with beaten egg and a little milk, broth or leftover gravy. Shape into balls and roll in Panko-style crumbs. Place on a baking pan, lightly spray with oil and bake at 375 degrees until browned and crisp. Serve with leftover cranberry sauce.

The secret to great turkey leftovers is proper storage. According to the National Turkey Federation, leftover turkey should be carved from the bone and stored in shallow containers and refrigerated or frozen within two hours of cooking. Use refrigerated turkey in a sandwich or on top of a salad within three to four days. If you can’t eat your leftover turkey in a few days, freeze it for up to three months, for use in other recipes.

The test kitchen chefs at Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise have developed solutions to beat the seasonal leftover turkey blues. 

Turkey Casserole

  • 4 cups leftover prepared stuffing, divided
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped leftover cooked turkey (about 1 pound)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, divided
  • 1/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8-inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Spoon in 2 cups stuffing, then top with turkey. Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise with cranberry sauce; evenly spread over turkey.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup mayonnaise, potatoes and cheese in large bowl. Evenly spread on turkey. Top with remaining 2 cups stuffing.

Bake 40 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with dried cranberries. Serves 6.

Blushing Cranberry and Pear Turkey Salad

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce or cranberry relish
  • 4 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves or mixed salad greens
  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • 1 medium pear, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

In medium bowl, combine mayonnaise and cranberry sauce; set aside .In large bowl, combine romaine, spinach and turkey. Just before serving toss with mayonnaise mixture. Top with pear slices, pecans and onion. Garnish, if desired with dried cranberries.

Turkey Turnovers

  • 2 cups shredded cooked turkey
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped cooked broccoli
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine all ingredients except crescent rolls in large bowl. Separate each package crescent rolls into 4 squares; press diagonal perforations to seal.

Spoon turkey filling onto center of each square, then fold dough diagonally over filling to form triangles; press edges firmly to seal. Arrange turnovers on baking sheet; brush tops lightly with additional mayonnaise. Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.  Serves 8.

Turkey Fiesta Salad

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa
  • 6 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • 4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled

Combine mayonnaise and salsa in small bowl; set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in large bowl. Just before serving toss with mayonnaise mixture. Serve, if desired, with your favorite salad fixings, such as chopped tomatoes, black beans, shredded cheese, sliced pitted ripe olives, sliced green onions and/or tortilla chips.  Serves 4.

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